Travellers Tips and FAQ for Cairns and the Reef

Being a North Queensland local, many of my friends and guests have suggested that we write up a quick list of travel tips for visitors to Cairns. I will start this and continue to add to it as we get different questions and suggestions. So send in your questions and I will endeavour to answer them and post them here. The most common question is how far should I book ahead? Well as we only take 10 people per dive and snorkel trip it is best to plan ahead as much as you can. Our trips often sell out 4-6 months in advance so booking well in advance makes sure you secure your spot.

1. How easy is it to get around Cairns? How do I get from my hotel?
Many hotels offer a shuttle service if they are not in the centre of the city. If the hotel is not in the centre of the city it is best to check with the hotel and check the quoted walking time against a map. Whereis offers a pretty reliable map service for Cairns. Taxis are a pretty reliable means of travel and there is a fairly extensive bus service also available.
2. What shops are open and when?
Most businesses in Cairns open at 8 or 9 a.m. close at 5 or 6 p.m. Some supermarkets stay open until 9 p.m. during the week however close at the earlier times on the weekend. There are some smaller markets such as IGA that have much more extended hours.
3. What Medical Clinics and Services are Available?
There are two hospitals in Cairns both a public and private one. There are also 24 hr and other clinics available. The closest 24hr hour medical centre is on the corner of Grafton and Florence St. It also has a 24hr pharmacy and chemist as well as doing dive medicals for certification.
4. Can I see as much just snorkelling on the reef as diving?
While you can see a lot snorkelling and it is truly a fantastic experience the diving just raise the bar to another level completely. The interaction and personal experience with the natural reef and wildlife is a fantastic experience.
5. What is an Introductory Dive?
An “Introductory Dive” or “Resort Dive” is basically an escorted dive with a fully trained dive instructor. Limitations for your safety are placed on the dive and it is a great way to experience the thrill of diving just to try it or before you commit to a course. A short briefing is given to explain the basics of diving and the instructor will be with you at all times during the dive. We limit the amount of introductory divers to two people per instructor, other companies may do more and you should check before booking.
6. Is there any prior experience needed and do I need to take a medical exam?
No experience is needed to go on an introductory dive, however you must be relatively healthy and complete a medical declaration which can be found here.
7. What is the best time to visit the reef?
Anytime that you can fit into your schedule is the best. There are certain times that are a little bit more special such as whale season or reef spawning to name a few. Unlike many parts of the world the rain here is warm and often monsoonal meaning it only rains for periods of the day. Rain falling onshore does not mean it is raining at the reef, the outer reef is about 50km out of Cairns so the weather is different.
8. It has been awhile since I have dived and would not feel comfortable diving without a guide. Is this possible?
Of course, safety in the Queensland Diving Industry is the among the best in the world and paying personal attention to guests that require it is both a safety consideration as well as a service we are pleased to offer to anyone.
9. Can you still dive and snorkel during stinger season?
Yes, most operators offer protective wetsuits or stinger suits to offer protection. We include this in the price however many operators will charge extra for this so again check before you book.
10. How Do I Know What Tour to Book?
Look for the sort of tour that suits you, set some criteria that you want to stick by and do not be swayed from it. Ask the agent if they have been on the trip or if they are getting cash or other “incentives” to sell the trip. The better trips will not offer such “incentives”. Ask if the companies are community and environmentally minded, our list of supported projects and charities has some but of course not all in the area.
11. Are your tours suitable for children?
We recommend that children are older then 5 to come on our sailing boats for both safety and to make sure they get the full enjoyment out of the trip to the reef. If the family is experienced on the water and boating we may consider younger children. For other children there are pontoon options available such Reef Magic, a locally owned and operated company.
12 . Where Do Your Guests Come From?
Everywhere – More specific details can be found here.
13. What does the UV Index mean?
We have included the international UV index and ways to avoid sunburn here at this blog entry.

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